‘It is important to bash this taboo’ - WI donates to project fighting period poverty

(From left) Caroline Varney-Bowers, community librarian for Norfolk library services, Jan Holden, he

(From left) Caroline Varney-Bowers, community librarian for Norfolk library services, Jan Holden, head of libraries and information for Norfolk County Council, and Margaret Collingwood, chairman of Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes (WI). The WI organisation donated £382 to the Tricky Period project which allows people who cannot afford santitary products to get them for free at Norfolk's libraries. Picture: Sophie Wyllie - Credit: Sophie Wyllie

It is an issue which affects women of all ages and backgrounds, but period poverty, meaning women cannot afford sanitary products, is widespread.

However, a project, which offers free tampons and sanitary towels and pads through the county's libraries, has received a boost from the Norfolk Federation of Women's Institutes (WI).

The federation, which represents 156 WI groups, donated just over £382 to the Tricky Period after its centenary service.

Tricky Period started in 2017 and was the idea of Caroline Varney-Bowers after she saw social media videos of homeless people struggling to afford sanitary products.

Margaret Collingwood, chairman of the Norfolk Federation of WI, said: "There has been a taboo about talking about your period in the past. This gets people talking about it, which is wonderful. We at the WI feel we can spread the word.

"You can remember that day when you run out of sanitary products. That dreaded sinking feeling when the cupboard is bare makes you hurt."

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The Tricky Period started out at Norwich libraries and has spread to all 47 libraries and six mobile libraries across Norfolk.

Some 600 packs of sanitary products are given out by library staff and between 600 and 700 individual items are taken from library toilets every six months.

And since it started in Norfolk, the project has been replicated in libraries in Lambeth, London, Kent, and Devon.

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Mrs Varney-Bowers, a community librarian for Norfolk library services, said: "It is a very basic idea that people who can afford to buy a sanitary product can donate them to people who cannot afford them."

Donations can be dropped off to library staff or in library toilets.

Anyone who needs a product can either take a sanitary product from a library toilet or fill in a form, usually in the toilets, requesting what they need which will be given immediately by a library worker.

Mrs Varney-Bowers said: "It is important to bash down this taboo."

The project founder said it helps a range of people and the Tricky Period has teamed up with charities like domestic violence charity Leeway, Magdalene Group which helps prevent the sexual exploitation of women and youth and homeless charity the YMCA.

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